(LifeSiteNews) – Outspoken Ontario Canadian Christian Pastor Henry Hildebrandt made a deal with an Ontario court that sees most charges levied against him and his church for breaking COVID gathering rules dropped in exchange for pleading guilty to as he put it, one count of “obeying God rather than man.”
“I was sentenced today for continuing to assemble for worship with our congregation in 2020 and 2021. As the Bible directs,” Hildebrandt said in a video message Thursday posted to X (formerly Twitter).
Hildebrandt, of the Church of God located in Aylmer, Ontario, said the “justice of the peace fined me $65,000 for an outdoor church service that was livestreamed and open for all to attend on June 6, 2021.”
Hildebrandt said that he made the decision to “accept a deal that will end further legal battles as it pertains to myself,” after “much prayer and consultation with leaders and wise counselors.”
“The Aylmer Church of God, my family, and all others that have been ticketed and summoned for worshiping with us in Elgin County. I was personally fined $65,000 for apparent harm that I caused the surrounding community for continuing to gather for worship during a declared pandemic,” Hildebrandt noted.
“All other charges relating to gathering will be dropped, which, if taken to trial, could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees if acquitted and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if found guilty.”
Hildebrandt noted that he had offered to donate $75,000 to the Aylmer Food Bank in lieu of paying the fine that would go to the Ontario government, but this was turned down.
“Sadly, this offer was declined outright by the prosecution, and the $65,000 fine will be going to the Ontario government, not the local community,” Hildebrandt said.
“This raises the question whether our actions were a harm to the community or a harm to the government narrative. I’ll let you decide.”
Today, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which helped Hildebrandt and his church in his legal battle, said they were “proud” to have stood by him.
“Pastor @aylmerpastor is pleased to finally put this matter behind him, with the charges against his family, Church & its members, being withdrawn. The Justice Centre is proud to have stood by him and continues to defend his charges for allegedly attending protests,” JCCF wrote the on X (formerly Twitter).
In Hildebrandt’s video, he noted that he and his church were “threatened by neighbors, persecuted by Christians, defamed by the media, vandalized by radicals, spied on by the police, and fined by the government for offering the gospel to the lost hope, to the fearful comfort, to the hurting refuge, to the outcast, food for the hungry and the hug to the rejected.”
“That, my friends, is the fundamental duty of the church, the people of God. When we abandoned that duty, we bowed to man and turn our back on God. By God’s grace, I will always obey God rather than man, regardless of the consequences,” he added.
Hildebrandt noted that the “local public health unit” was not able to trace a single COVID-19 case to Church of God gatherings that were held during the pandemic. He added that his “congregation didn’t have a single funeral” throughout the COVID crisis.
Hildebrandt spoke out frequently against COVID mandates during the so-called pandemic, including during last year’s now-famous Freedom Convoy.
At the time of the Freedom Convoy protest in 2022, Hildebrandt told the truckers in Ottawa that “God is on” their side and to stay “focused” and not be intimated by detractors.
By the time he had spoken at the Freedom Convoy, Hildebrandt’s Church of God had racked up $274,000 in fines since the start of the COVID crisis and the lockdown rules that ensured.
He had said that faith leaders who oppose COVID lockdowns and mandates are “not careless” but that they will “not bow” to oppressive rules limiting their right to worship.
Early this year, Canadian Crown prosecutors dropped 2021 charges levied against Hildebrandt allegedly violating COVID health orders under the Reopening Ontario Act related to worship size gathering limits that were in effect at that time.
In 2022, Ontario Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance made a ruling that the Reopening Ontario Act did violate the Church of God’s freedom of religion and that it was not a positive thing for people’s well-being. However, Pomerance then ruled that these violations were reasonable.
The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld Pomerance’s ruling, and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to offer a hearing on the case.
The Ontario government in 2021 put in place COVID restrictions on houses of worship, but exceptions were made for drive-in religious services.
However, on April 28, 2021, police came to Hildebrandt’s home during an online Bible study class so that he could be served the ticket.